Ohio flu hospitalizations this season top 7,000

Flu cases are still widespread in Ohio, as a nasty season for the virus continues to lead to missed work, missed school and high rates of hospital stays around the state.

The Ohio Department of Health reported 7,353 total flu-related hospitalizations for the season as of Jan. 20, the latest data available.

The Associated Press reported Friday that the flu blanketed the U.S. again last week for the third straight week, with every state but Hawaii having widespread flu activity.

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The flu season changes each year in how severe it is, though every season it still leads to thousands of hospitalizations in Ohio and even some cases of flu-related deaths.

“It’s a major annual epidemic that we at Public Health take very seriously,” Dr. Michael Dohn, medical director at Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County, has said.

Last week, 1 in 15 doctor visits were for symptoms of the flu, according to AP. That’s the highest level since the swine flu pandemic in 2009. The government does not track every flu case but makes estimates; one measure is how many people seek medical care for fever, cough, aches and other flu symptoms.

Locally, the flu led to a rising number of hospitalizations last week. In Montgomery County, which led the region in the number of flu hospitalizations, there were 547 total cases last week, up from 458 cases reported the week before.

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“Based on five-year averages, we’re seeing the flu on higher averages, hospitalizations higher than the five-year average and that the flu season started a little earlier than the five-year average,” Bryan Bucklew, president and CEO of the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association, has said.

Flu is a contagious respiratory illness. It can cause a miserable but relatively mild illness in most people, but can produce severe illness in others. Young children and the elderly are at greatest risk from the flu and its complications.

In the U.S., annual flu shots are recommended for everyone age 6 months or older. Last season, about 47 percent of Americans got vaccinated, according to CDC figures.

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